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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

 
 

The name’s Connery…
…Gary Connery

On Friday 27 July 2012 the eyes of the world were focused on London as the city hosted the opening ceremony for the Games of the XXX Olympiad. For 007 fans, the highlight of artistic director Danny Boyle's near four-hour spectacular 'Isles of Wonder' was James Bond's appearance alongside none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the short film ‘Happy and Glorious’. Soon after the games, Luke G. Williams spoke to parachutist Gary Connery (who ‘doubled’ for the Queen) about his contribution to this amazing event. On the eve of the Rio Olympics, 007 MAGAZINE is proud to present this never before published and exclusive interview with Mr. Connery.

Daniel Craig as James Bond with HRM Queen Elizabeth II in 'Happy and Glorious'

The Olympics wasn’t your first encounter with James Bond was it?
You’re right - I have worked on a couple of the Bond films. In Die Another Day where there's a big hovercraft sequence at the beginning, I think we were meant to be in Korea, I was involved in that, I was driving one of the hovercrafts that ultimately ended up going over a cliff supposedly. More recently I was involved in helping to co-ordinate and create a scene on Quantum of Solace. The sequence where there was a chase over rooftops and Daniel Craig jumps from a rooftop on to a bus.

So how did you land the Olympics job?
The creative team [behind the opening ceremony] asked around various people within the industry, the stunt world and the sky-diving world who would be right for the job. They asked three independent parties and my name came up three times. Add that to the fact that when I arrived at the first meeting to discuss the job the whole team saw that I already knew Danny Boyle from some film work I'd done in the past … that was the icing on the cake really!

What made you such a strong candidate?
It was down to my base-jumping exploits to be honest. What they wanted to achieve with the Olympic ceremony was a low-altitude jump with a low opening with accuracy to land. I'm probably the UK's best-known base jumper and they are just the attributes that a base jumper needs.

Can you talk us through the preparations for the opening ceremony?
Technical wise, we had probably three months preparation prior to the day itself. We met with the helicopter crew and decided which helicopter was going to be the right one to use. Then we did some test jumps off-site, probably as many as 15-20 test jumps, so we were using a drop zone, a sky-diving centre and then we did five test jumps over the stadium prior to the 27 July itself.

London 2012 opening ceremony - The Queen and James Bond parachute into the stadium

There were rumours in the press about the stunt, although most people dismissed them as fanciful. Was it hard to keep the details of what you were planning under wraps?
It was very easy to keep it quiet, because I was involved and I wanted it to have amazing impact, as it has done. So from my perspective it was very easy not to tell anybody! I wanted it to be special! Thankfully no one really believed [the press reports] and it just went away. How it leaked out in the first place I don't know, but I know that at the time it did the team were disappointed, obviously.

Did it feel a bit strange doing a parachute jump with a dress on while in costume as the Queen of England?
In truth it didn't feel any different. You're so focused on the job itself and making sure you get everything right that what you're wearing doesn't come into it too much!

On the night of 27 July did everything go to plan?
It was like clockwork, the helicopter crew was very good, they did what they needed to do. Dave Emerson, who was the jump-master, gave us a very clear and precise countdown. The whole team really gelled and, ultimately, the creative team was very happy with what we created. From my perspective everything worked so I was delighted.

Mark Sutton and Gary Connery parachute into the Olympic stadium
Gary Connery in costume as the Queen - with Mark Sutton as James Bond

Would you say it’s the most memorable jump you’ve ever been involved with?
It's got to be right up there with the best of them without a doubt. Every jump, every stunt I've done has its own story, and some things stick in your mind more than others for various reasons. But yes, absolutely, this one in terms of the publicity and how it's changed my profile is amazing. I wouldn’t be talking to you now if it hadn't happened so that makes it super special! It's totally raised my profile. I didn’t realise quite how much impact it would have, I was treating it purely as a jump stunt job. I thought my work was over when I landed on Friday 27 July when I touched down, but I couldn't have been more wrong! It's pretty special having the Olympics in your country and to be asked to be involved in the opening ceremony is a step up again! And to also be asked to be the Queen? Well, that’s just fantastic!

Postscript:
In the wake of the London Olympics, 007 MAGAZINE also endeavoured to interview Mark Sutton, the former Army officer who doubled for Daniel Craig. Sadly, though, Mr Sutton died in a wingsuit flying accident in Switzerland in August 2013 before we were able to set up an interview. For exclusive footage behind the scenes of Mark and Gary’s amazing stunt visit the Gurkha Welfare Trust website, a charity that was close to Mark’s heart. https://www.gwt.org.uk/news/voltrek1000

James Bond and The Queen London 2012 Performance
Queen presented with BAFTA at celebration of British film industry


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